North Dakota’s Winter Gold – Jumbo Perch!

Josh Clawson with two North Dakota jumbo ice fishing caught yellow perch

Josh Clawson with two North Dakota jumbo ice fishing caught yellow perch

When you hear the words “Ice Fishing” what is the first thing that comes to mind?? For me it’s the sight of a jumbo perch surpassing a pound and a half sliding up a hole, plucked from his comrades in the depths below that are awaiting their own ascent to the top side of the ice to meet me. That’s right! I’m talking deep water perch, and not just perch, but jumbo perch at that!

I am lucky to live close to two of the best perch factories the ice has to offer – North Dakota’s Devils Lake and Stump Lake. Both of these bodies of water have booming yellow perch populations and fish surpassing 15″ are not uncommon. There are a handful of tactics that work on these dwellers of the deep, but I will highlight, in my mind, one of the more effective strategies.

The one thing that both of these lakes have in common is that in recent years they have more than tripled in size gobbling up trees and farmland. On Stump Lake for instance, the old shoreline sits at 37 feet deep. This lake was and still is lined with trees, but it’s those old shoreline trees that interest me.

Looking at old maps and google earth have helped to pinpoint areas to attack with old wooded points and inside turns being my first choice.

As far as I can tell these perch cruise just outside the old tree line wandering in and out of the woods as they travel. Taking this into consideration I will zig-zag my holes along the line that my GPS tells me was the old shoreline. Drilling 15-30 holes in an area the size of a basketball court allows you to cover areas quickly and effectively. The first order of business once the holes are drilled is to locate the tree edge. This is done by swinging the transducer in the hole towards shore, and back and forth while watching your graph. Once you find a hole that shows no trees when the transducer is stationary, yet show them once you start to swing it, you’re in the right spot.

K&E Stopper Lures Smelt Stick Color Chart including Bright Glow Finish on the back of each lure

K&E Stopper Lures Smelt Stick Color Chart including Bright Glow Finish on the back of each lure

I like to run two rods for this perch search. The first, a 27-30″ medium light rod with a fast tip to be used in conjunction with a 30mm Smelt Stick generally in a fire tiger tipped with a minnow head. This lure gets down to the depth quick and can be worked aggressively to provide attention grabbing flash and vibration. I like to pound the Smelt Stick into the bottom a couple of times, then snap it up a foot or so repeatedly 5 or 6 times then let it sit stationary 6 inches off the bottom for a few seconds.

Do this repeatedly for maybe 3 minutes in each hole before moving to the next. If no fish show up, move to the next hole and begin again. Once a fish is marked, slowly raise and jiggle the lure making the dropper chain come alive. Generally they will rise and smack it. Once a fish is on, speed is the name of the game.

Skandia Tungsten Pelkie jig size chart Firetiger color

Skandia Tungsten Pelkie jig size chart Firetiger color

Now for rod 2, a 26-28″ light rod also with a fast tip, with 2lbs test super line, and the largest Skandia Pelkie jig in glow packed with 5 or 6 maggots. Bomb this to the bottom as fast as you can, thump the bottom once or twice and lift slightly and jiggle it. The school of perch you brought into the area with the smelt stick will still be close if not directly below you. The small yet heavy package that tungsten comes in will drop faster though the water column than most other baits allowing you to cut the distance from your offering to the fish in record time.

If the fish move off keep the search going and enjoy your winter’s gold!

Filed Under: FeaturedIce Fishing TipsYellow Perch


About the Author: Josh Clawson is 29 years old, an avid fisherman, rod builder, husband, and father of 2. He works for the City of Grand Forks, North Dakota Engineering Department as a Civil Engineering Technician. Josh is K&E Pro Staff.

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